Black Hill, SD Expedition No. 95 – Peak 6720 & Medicine Mountain (9-13-14)

SPHP wanted to park the G6 at the start of Tree Draw on the W side of Newton Creek Road (USFS Road No. 304), but there wasn’t any place to park there.  Lupe and SPHP had to abandon the G6 at a wide spot along the road about 0.25 mile farther S (11:04 AM, 53°F).  Lupe trotted ahead of SPHP on No. 304 back down to Tree Draw.

The side road going W across Newton Creek was marked as ATV trail No. 6918, but SPHP’s old map showed it as USFS Road No. 304.1B.  Whatever its proper designation these days, Lupe and SPHP followed it W up Tree Draw.

It was a beautiful, clear, bright morning.  Less than 72 hours earlier, on the night of September 10/11, the Black Hills had experienced its earliest measureable snowfall on record.  The records went all the way back to 1888.  Parts of the Black Hills had received up to 8″ of snow.  Lupe, of course, was delighted!  She had a blast frolicking in big patches of snow still melting in shady spots.

Lupe loved the rapidly melting snow along USFS Road No. 304.1B going up Tree Draw.
Lupe loved the rapidly melting snow along USFS Road No. 304.1B going up Tree Draw.

No. 304.1B went W for 0.5 mile, then turned SSW for another 0.5 mile.  The road ended at a barbed wire fence shortly before reaching the top of a saddle along a high ridge.  Lupe and SPHP got past the fence, and continued up to the saddle.  On the other side of the saddle, a herd of black cows was grazing in the upper reaches of a wide grassy valley.

Lupe’s first peakbagging goal of the day, Peak 6720 was in sight about 0.25 mile to the SSE along the ridgeline.  A fair amount of deadfall timber laying across the ridge looked like the only obstacle in the way of an otherwise easy stroll up to the summit.

Lupe's route up Peak 6720 from the NNW. The deadfall timber was the only real obstacle to an otherwise easy climb.
Lupe’s route up Peak 6720 from the NNW. The deadfall timber was the only real obstacle to an otherwise easy climb.

At the top of Peak 6720, Lupe found 3 separate high points strung out along the ridge.  Each high point featured a rocky outcropping.  The middle rock outcropping was the true summit, but fewer standing trees made the views better from the N and S high points.

Although the rock formations at the high points weren’t all that large, they were somewhat tricky to navigate.  The presence of significant amounts of deadfall timber, and an annoying bumper crop of thistles didn’t help.  Lupe and SPHP spent at least half an hour up on Peak 6720.  Part of that time was used up just moving around between the high points.

Peak 6720 is the highest point along a long ridge that runs for several miles in a NNW/SSE direction.  Although there are a number of other points nearly as high along the ridge, Lupe and SPHP had good views over a wide swath of territory in most directions.

Medicine Mountain (6,878 ft.) from Peak 6720 using the telephoto lens. Photo looks SSW.
Medicine Mountain (6,878 ft.) from Peak 6720 using the telephoto lens. Photo looks SSW.
Lupe on Peak 6720.
Lupe on Peak 6720.
A splendid view to the WNW from Peak 6720. Gillette Prairie is seen in the distance on the R. Copper Mountain (6,920 ft.) and Green Mountain (7,164 ft.) are in view along the high distant ridge on the L.
A splendid view to the WNW from Peak 6720. Gillette Prairie is seen in the distance on the R. Copper Mountain (6,920 ft.) and Green Mountain (7,164 ft.) are in view along the high distant ridge on the L.
Lupe on the true summit of Peak 6720. Odakota Mountain (7,200 ft.), the 2nd highest mountain in South Dakota, is the high point along the far ridge near the center of the L side of this photo. Photo looks WSW.
Lupe on the true summit of Peak 6720. Odakota Mountain (7,200 ft.), the 2nd highest mountain in South Dakota, is the high point along the far ridge near the center of the L side of this photo. Photo looks WSW.
Harney Peak (7,242 ft.) is the high point on the far ridge. Photo looks SE from the S high point on Peak 6720.
Harney Peak (7,242 ft.) is the high point on the far ridge. Photo looks SE from the S high point on Peak 6720.

Lupe visited all 3 of the high points on Peak 6720 before heading NW down the mountain into the long valley SSW of the saddle to Tree Draw.  Well down the slope, Lupe passed to the N of a tall rock formation, turned SW, and proceeded down to the bottom of the valley.

A dirt road went along the W side of the valley.  Black cows were grazing near it, but moved off up the valley as Lupe and SPHP approached.

Medicine Mountain from the valley W of Peak 6720. Photo looks SSW.
Medicine Mountain from the valley W of Peak 6720. Photo looks SSW.
These cows W of Peak 6720 decided it was best to trot on up the valley to avoid meeting Lupe and SPHP.
These cows W of Peak 6720 decided it was best to trot on up the valley to avoid meeting Lupe and SPHP.

Lupe and SPHP followed the road, which was probably USFS Road No. 297.3E, going SSW down the valley.  SPHP knew there would be more cows ahead, having seen several herds from up on Peak 6720.  When the next herd came into view, Lupe and SPHP crossed a tiny stream on the W side of the valley and headed up into the trees.

After going high enough to avoid disturbing the cows while passing by, Lupe and SPHP tried going SSW along the side of the hill.  For a while it worked out OK.  In fact, it was a rather interesting trek.  The hillside had some interesting geology.  Very shiny fine-grained rocks and nice specimens of white quartz formed part of the rock formations Lupe came to.  There were even some pieces of rose quartz.  SPHP wondered what made the shiny rocks so glittery?

The hillside became steeper.  A deep, narrow side ravine coming down from the NW blocked Lupe’s way forward.  Lupe and SPHP had to go down off the hillside.  At the base of the hillside, Lupe found the tiny creek again.  However, it wasn’t so tiny as it had been upstream.  It still wasn’t all that large, but there was quite a bit of black mucky marshy ground around it.

Finding a way across the marshy creek took a little while, but Lupe and SPHP managed to get across out into the main part of the valley again.  The road had disappeared.  The valley was full of tall grass and scattered stands of trees.  Even though this was all Black Hills National Forest land, Lupe came to several barbed wire fences.

At the lower end of the valley, Lupe found a faint road (a remnant of USFS Road No. 297.3E?) again.  It soon led Lupe and SPHP to USFS Road No. 297, a major gravel road.  Not too far away, a pond on Negro Creek was on the other side of No. 297.  Lupe’s next peakbagging goal, Medicine Mountain (6,878 ft.) could be seen beyond the pond.

The faint road in the lower part of the valley SW of Peak 6720 shortly before it reached USFS Road No. 297. Photo looks SW.
The faint road in the lower part of the valley SW of Peak 6720 shortly before it reached USFS Road No. 297. Photo looks SW.
The pond on Negro Creek near USFS Road No. 297. Medicine Mountain, Lupe's next peakbagging goal, is seen almost a mile beyond the pond. Photo looks S.
The pond on Negro Creek near USFS Road No. 297. Medicine Mountain, Lupe’s next peakbagging goal, is seen almost a mile beyond the pond. Photo looks S.

To get around some private property (the pond was part of it), Lupe and SPHP followed USFS Road No. 297 S less than 0.25 mile.  Lupe then bounded over Negro Creek, and went W across a field to the edge of the forest.  A rather striking hill with two big rock outcroppings at the top was back to the SE across No. 297.

This striking hill with 2 big rock outcroppings at the top was SE of where Lupe started her climb up Medicine Mountain.
This striking hill with 2 big rock outcroppings at the top was SE of where Lupe started her climb up Medicine Mountain.
Looking SE using the telephoto lens.
Looking SE using the telephoto lens.

Lupe and SPHP started climbing Medicine Mountain from the NNE.  There was no road or trail.  At first there was quite a bit of deadfall timber to contend with, and the going was slow.  About 1/3 of the way up, Lupe came to a meadow.  Lupe and SPHP headed W across the meadow, still gaining elevation.  At the end of the meadow, Lupe turned S climbing again through the forest.

The mountain got steeper higher up, but fortunately there wasn’t as much deadfall.  Medicine Mountain has two high points separated by a large saddle several hundred feet long.  The N high point is somewhat lower than the S one.  Near the end of the climb, Lupe and SPHP arrived at the base of cliffs at the N end of the N high point.

Lupe and SPHP couldn’t climb the cliffs.  A short exploration to the E revealed discouragingly steep terrain littered with deadfall timber.  The W side of the mountain looked more encouraging.  The cliffs forced Lupe and SPHP to lose some elevation going around to the W, but then there was a place where it might be possible to climb up.  Lupe and SPHP managed to scramble up without much difficulty.

Even though the N high point wasn’t the true summit of Medicine Mountain, Lupe was already here.  It made sense to explore the N high point first.  The views from the cliffs at the very N end were great.  An unobstructed 180° panorama was on display.  It seemed like a terrific place to take a break.  SPHP filled Lupe’s bowl with Taste of the Wild, and then sat down to eat an apple while admiring the scene.

Green Mountain (L Center), Copper Mountain (Center), and Gillette Prairie (R) from the N end of Medicine Mountain. Photo looks N.
Green Mountain (L Center), Copper Mountain (Center), and Gillette Prairie (R) from the N end of Medicine Mountain. Photo looks N.
Odakota Mountain (Center) from the N end of Medicine Mountain. Photo looks NW.
Odakota Mountain (Center) from the N end of Medicine Mountain. Photo looks NW.
The tallest branch of the dead white tree points straight up at Peak 6720. To the left is the valley that Lupe came down. Near the end of it, there is a glimpse of the pond on Negro Creek down by USFS Road No. 297. Photo looks NNE.
The tallest branch of the dead white tree points straight up at Peak 6720. To the left is the valley that Lupe came down. Near the end of it, there is a glimpse of the pond on Negro Creek down by USFS Road No. 297. Photo looks NNE.

Lupe was too busy to eat her Taste of the Wild.  A chipmunk scurrying around on the rocks had her bamboozled, but she remained very interested in its sudden appearances and disappearances.  The entertainment went on for several minutes.  SPHP wasn’t paying any attention when suddenly Lupe made a low “woof”.

Lupe searches for the Houdini chipmunk up at the N end of the N high point on Medicine Mountain. Bear Mountain (7,166 ft.) is the high ridge on the horizon. Photo looks SW.
Lupe searches for the Houdini chipmunk up at the N end of the N high point on Medicine Mountain. Bear Mountain (7,166 ft.) is the high ridge on the horizon. Photo looks SW.

Glancing over at Lupe, SPHP saw that she was standing stock still.  She had forgotten all about the chipmunk.  Now she was staring intently at some low juniper bushes close to SPHP.  The fur on the back of her neck and all along her spine was standing on end.

Lupe didn’t move a muscle.  For a couple of minutes she stood staring at the bushes.  She made several deep, menacing “woofs”.  What the heck was it?!  SPHP hardly dared to move.  Had Lupe caught wind of a mountain lion?  Had it stalked Lupe and SPHP clear to the top of Medicine Mountain?  The idea seemed preposterous, but something sure had Lupe’s attention.

Suddenly the menacing creature broke from the juniper bushes making a mad dash.  It disappeared in a flash.  A white bunny rabbit?!  That was the fur-raising threat?  Well, no doubt it was for the best that there hadn’t been a mountain lion, but a white bunny rabbit seemed ridiculously disappointing.  Couldn’t there at least have been a bobcat or something?

SPHP laughed at Lupe.  Seriously, Lupe, a bunny rabbit?  I’ve never seen you react that way before to such a harmless creature!  What a big, brave American Dingo!  You almost had me believing there was a mountain lion or some ferocious predator.

Oh, I see.  This is Medicine Mountain and the white bunny was full of bad medicine, right?  It really wasn’t what it seemed when it dashed away.  Probably transformed by old Indian magic and evil spirits from its true form!  SPHP laughed again.

Lupe paid no attention to SPHP’s teasing.  She knew what she knew.  Lupe gave up on disappearing rabbits and chipmunks.  Now that the bunny was gone, she relaxed.  Things were back to normal.

Lupe suddenly realized how hungry she was.  She devoured her Taste of the Wild.  SPHP shared part of an energy bar with her.  When Lupe was fueled up again, it was time to go explore the true summit at the S end of Medicine Mountain.

The saddle to the S high point was easily crossed.  A faint trail led up to the summit from the NW.  The S end of the summit area was grassy and open.  Once again, Medicine Mountain provided an unobstructed 180° panorama, this time to the S.

Harney Peak (7,242 ft.) (L) and Little Devil's Tower (6,960 ft.) (R) from Medicine Mountain. Photo looks SE.
Harney Peak (7,242 ft.) (L) and Little Devil’s Tower (6,960 ft.) (R) from Medicine Mountain. Photo looks SE.
Lupe on Medicine Mountain. Photo looks SW.
Lupe on Medicine Mountain. Photo looks SW.
Peak 6680 is the rounded forested hill in the foreground below the high ridge on the L. Odakota Mountain is seen on the R. Photo looks W.
Peak 6680 is the rounded forested hill on the L in the foreground below the high ridge. Odakota Mountain is seen on the R. Photo looks W.
Looking S.
Looking S.
Looking SE.
Looking SE.
Looking NNE at Peak 6720 (Center).
Looking NNE at Peak 6720 (Center).

Lupe and SPHP dawdled for more than half an hour on Medicine Mountain.  When it was time to go, Lupe took the faint trail NW down to the saddle area.  From the saddle, Lupe and SPHP went W down the slope.  It was slow going.  Deadfall timber lay strewn in every direction.  To avoid some of it, Lupe and SPHP turned SW, finally reaching some open ground.

Lupe lost elevation rapidly and came to a road.  SPHP led her W across the road to a little hill with a view toward Peak 6680.  Peak 6680 was supposed to have been Lupe’s 3rd peakbagging goal of the day.  It was only a mile to the WNW, but there was a big valley between here and there.  The fields down in the valley would have been easy to cross, but they were private property.

Gunfire started up off to the N.  Lupe didn’t want to go anywhere.  She wanted to stop and hide.  SPHP did stop to pet and reassure her.  The sun was starting to get kind of low.  OK, Lupe, no more mountains.  Let’s get away from the gunfire, instead.  Lupe and SPHP went back to the road and followed it SW.  The road reached a “T” intersection with another road.

SPHP didn’t know it at the time, but this was USFS Road No. 297.3M.  Lupe and SPHP followed No. 297.3M going SE, and then S about 0.75 mile down a long valley.  The road then turned E and wound around the S end of a low ridge.

Looking NE back up at the S end of Medicine Mountain shortly after reaching USFS Road No. 297.3M.
Looking NE back up at the S end of Medicine Mountain shortly after reaching USFS Road No. 297.3M.

Looking NE at the S end of Medicine Mountain from USFS Road No. 297.3M, 9-13-14

A last look back to the N at Medicine Mountain from USFS Road No. 297.3M.
A last look back to the N at Medicine Mountain from USFS Road No. 297.3M.
A little squirrel found safety from an overactive barking American Dingo up in a dead tree along USFS Road No. 297.3M.
A little squirrel found safety from an overactive barking American Dingo up in a dead tree along USFS Road No. 297.3M.

When Lupe reached the main gravel road, SPHP mistakenly assumed she was a little farther S than she really was.  SPHP turned N thinking this was County Road No. 317, which Lupe could follow several miles to USFS Road No. 304, and then several more miles back to the G6.

In reality, No. 317 was a little bit farther S.  Lupe was actually on No. 297.  SPHP kept watching for a turn to the E that never came.  It didn’t take too long to figure out what had happened.  It was OK.  Lupe could just keep going N on No. 297 until she got close to the pond on Negro Creek.  Then she could go back up the valley of black cows to the saddle over to Tree Draw.

Along the way, Lupe came to a striking hill to the E of No. 297.  It looked similar to the one she had seen just before starting her climb up Medicine Mountain.  This one had three big rock outcroppings at the top.  SPHP guessed that the two rock outcropping hill must not be much farther N.  Pretty soon, Lupe saw the two rock outcropping hill, and then the pond on Negro Creek.

The 3 rock outcropping hill E of USFS Road No. 297. Photo looks N.
The 3 rock outcropping hill E of USFS Road No. 297. Photo looks N.
Looking N along USFS Road No. 297 at the 3 rock outcropping hill. The 2 rock outcropping hill was still a little farther ahead, and beyond it the pond on Negro Creek.
Looking N along USFS Road No. 297 at the 3 rock outcropping hill. The 2 rock outcropping hill was still a little farther ahead, and beyond it the pond on Negro Creek.

The sun was already down, and the light was fading by the time Lupe had traversed the valley of black cows to reach the saddle to Tree Draw.  Lupe and SPHP went over the saddle and followed No. 304.1B back down to Newton Creek Road and the G6 (7:46 PM, 44°F).  Stars were shining above.  Lupe wanted to linger and sniff the air near the G6.  Well, why not?  It was a gorgeous evening.

Sunset from the saddle N of Peak 6720 to Tree Draw.
Sunset from the saddle N of Peak 6720 to Tree Draw.

Thirty minutes later, all twilight had faded from the night sky.  Myriad stars glittered in the blackness above.  Lupe was finally ready to go home.  On the drive N along Newton Creek Road back to Deerfield Road, Lupe and SPHP both saw it!  A big white animal dashed across the road heading E.  It was gone in a flash.  A huge white coyote, a ghost coyote!

Lupe’s hackles were up.  The fur on the back of her neck and all along her spine was standing on end.  The rabbit up on the N high point of Medicine Mountain had been white, too.  You, don’t think?

Nah, no way, couldn’t be!

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Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 97 – Harney Peak & Little Devil’s Tower (9-25-14)

Mush and David were in the Black Hills on vacation.  Before they went back to Indiana, they wanted to hike up Harney Peak (7,242 ft.), the highest mountain in South Dakota.  Naturally, Lupe and SPHP were eager to join in on the fun!

It was going to be a hot day, in the 90’s °F out on the western South Dakota prairies.  Even Harney Peak would get pretty warm.  A relatively early start would help make the trek more pleasant.  By 8:00 AM, David was parking the Honda Fit near Sylvan Lake Lodge.  The morning was totally clear, calm, and a still pleasant 60°F.

Harney Peak is located in the Black Elk Wilderness, which features a fairly extensive trail system.  The most popular, and one of the shortest routes up Harney Peak, is Trail No. 9 from Sylvan Lake.  The trail starts at the SE corner of Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park and climbs pretty steadily for most of the 3.5 mile (one way) trek.

Fairly early in the hike, not too long after passing by a junction with Lost Cabin Trail No. 2, there is a flat granite outcropping near Trail No. 9.  This granite outcropping offers views off to the N, and a first good look at Harney Peak up ahead.

Mush and David stop by the granite outcropping near Trail No. 9. Photo looks N.
Mush and David stop by the granite outcropping near Trail No. 9. Photo looks N.
Harney Peak (Center) is the highest point in the distance. The summit won't be this clearly visible again from the Sylvan Lake route until almost at the top.
Harney Peak (Center) is the highest point in the distance. The summit won’t be this clearly visible again from the Sylvan Lake route until almost at the top.

There were plenty of hikers on the trail on this beautiful, warm early fall day.  A small crowd was already at the lookout tower on Harney Peak by the time Mush, David, Lupe and SPHP arrived at the summit.  A woman named Vera and her friend, Marsha, took a liking to Lupe right away.  Lupe basked in the attention showered on her.  Vera and Marsha were here with their husbands Emil and Stan from the Washington D.C. area.

After checking out the views from the tower’s observation deck, and the tiny platform at the top of the steep narrow stairs inside the tower, it was time to make somewhat of an escape from the crowd by heading out onto the massive granite W shoulder of Harney Peak.  David relieved Lupe of most of her usual photographic duties.

David on the W shoulder of Harney Peak. Photo looks W.
David on the W shoulder of Harney Peak. Photo looks W.
Sylvan Hill (7,000 ft.) is the high point on the R on the closest ridge. Photo looks SW.
Sylvan Hill (7,000 ft.) is the high point on the R on the closest ridge. Photo looks SW.
An American Dingo was sighted on the massive granite W shoulder of Harney Peak! It was a very healthy-looking, bright-eyed, and energetic specimen.
An American Dingo was sighted on the massive granite W shoulder of Harney Peak! It was a very healthy-looking, bright-eyed, and energetic specimen.
Cathedral Spires (6,840 ft.) (L), Little Devil's Tower (6,960 ft.) (R), and Peak 6920 (R edge) from Harney Peak. Photo looks S.
Cathedral Spires (6,840 ft.) (L), Little Devil’s Tower (6,960 ft.) (R), and Peak 6920 (R edge) from Harney Peak. Photo looks S.
Looking E back toward the lookout tower at the summit of Harney Peak.
Looking E back toward the lookout tower at the summit of Harney Peak.

David on Harney Peak, 9-25-14David on Harney Peak, 9-25-14David on Harney Peak, 9-25-14It was warm and breezy up on Harney Peak.  Lupe had fun watching chipmunks, and barking at a helicopter that flew by giving tours.  After a leisurely break for snacks and soaking in the views, it was time to go.  Mush and David intended to just return to Sylvan Lake by the same route along Trail No. 9.  SPHP, however, suggested making a loop past the Cathedral Spires over to Little Devil’s Tower.

Mush and David were a little leery of the idea, especially when SPHP admitted there was a bit of scrambling required to get to the top of Little Devil’s Tower.  SPHP assured them the loop wouldn’t add too much time and distance to the return trip, and that the scrambling was pretty easy.  With just a bit of caution, there was little or no risk.  The views up on Little Devil’s Tower would be worth the effort!

Mush and David agreed to at least try the loop trail, but they weren’t certain about actually scrambling up Little Devil’s Tower.  That would depend on what the scramble really looked like up close and personal.

After leaving Harney Peak, Lupe led the way on the loop by leaving Trail No. 9 to follow a short stretch of Norbeck Trail No. 3.  Norbeck Trail No. 3 linked up with Trail No. 4 to Little Devil’s Tower.  The trail passed near some of the Cathedral Spires along the way.

Mush and David nearing part of the Cathedral Spires.
Mush and David nearing part of the Cathedral Spires.
Photo looks SW.
Photo looks SW.
Cathedral Spires from Trail No. 4. Photo looks SE.
Cathedral Spires from Trail No. 4. Photo looks SE.

Taking a short (0.33 mile?) spur trail off Trail No. 4 is necessary to actually reach Little Devil’s Tower.  Sometime in the past few years, the spur trail has been re-routed.  The new route is shorter, easier, and more scenic than the old route.  The spur trail now leaves Trail No. 4 at a high point with a view of the Cathedral Spires to the E.  Good signage makes the turn hard to miss.

Most of the spur trail is gently rolling as it passes along the top of a ridge.  Nearing Little Devil’s Tower, the trail dips down briefly, and then climbs steeply up a short badly eroding section featuring a lot of loose rocks.  Above the loose rocks, the trail levels out at a little pass between large granite formations.  A sharp turn to the left reveals a narrow cleft in the granite.  The scrambling begins here.  White or blue diamonds painted on the granite show the way.

David had no problems, but Mush was rather apprehensive during the scramble.  With just a little encouragement, she made it to the top.  Although there are some pretty high cliffs off the edge of Little Devil’s Tower, the summit area features fairly large areas that are quite level.  Mush was able to relax on Little Devil’s Tower, and seemed glad she’d made the trip up.

Shortly after Lupe reached the summit, Lupe’s new friends Vera, Marsha, Stan and Emil appeared on Little Devil’s Tower, too!  Lupe got more loving attention, and had a good time posing with them.

L to R: Emil, Stan, Vera and Marsha from the Washington D.C. area pose with Lupe on top of Little Devil's Tower. Photo looks SE toward the Cathedral Spires.
L to R: Emil, Stan, Vera and Marsha from the Washington D.C. area pose with Lupe on top of Little Devil’s Tower. Photo looks SE toward the Cathedral Spires.
Mush and Lupe on Little Devil's Tower.
Mush and Lupe on Little Devil’s Tower.
Lupe shows off her Black Hills.
Lupe shows off her Black Hills.

Mush had relaxed so much up on Little Devil’s Tower, that by the time she was on the way down, she was busy pointing out the route and encouraging others who were still on their way up.  The side trip to Little Devil’s Tower was a big success.  Both Mush and David enjoyed it.

Lupe returned to Trail No. 4 using the same spur trail.  From there, Mush, David, Lupe and SPHP all continued on Trail No. 4 toward the Little Devil’s Tower trailhead on Hwy 87/89.  This was an easy downhill hike through a scenic valley all the way.

Mush on Trail No. 4 nearing the Little Devil's Tower trailhead on Hwy 87/89.
Mush on Trail No. 4 nearing the Little Devil’s Tower trailhead on Hwy 87/89.

Lupe was disappointed that the little creek near the Little Devil’s Tower trailhead was dried up this time of year.  However, it was only another 0.25 mile or so from the Little Devil’s Tower trailhead to the picnic ground at Sylvan Lake.

Used to Indiana elevations, Mush and David were pretty tired by the time they reached Sylvan Lake again.  It was hot out.  Mush and David went wading at the Sylvan Lake beach.  Carolina Dogs aren’t allowed on the beach, so Lupe and SPHP hung out along a nearby stretch of shoreline.  A bright orange stand of grassy reeds by the shore made for a colorful shot of the lake.

Lupe at Sylvan Lake.
Lupe at Sylvan Lake.

When Mush and David were done wading at the beach, everyone continued N on the Lakeshore Trail along the E side of Sylvan Lake.  Mush went down close to the shore again when the area near the dam came into view.  Here it was OK for Lupe to go wading and get a drink.  Lupe was happy to take her turn cooling her hot paws off.

Mush at Sylvan Lake. The small dam is in the far corner of the lake near the center of this photo. Photo looks W.
Mush at Sylvan Lake. The small dam is in the far corner of the lake near the center of this photo. Photo looks W.
Lupe gets a drink and some relief for her hot, tired paws.
Lupe gets a drink and some relief for her hot, tired paws.

Lupe, Mush, David, and SPHP continued on the Lakeshore Trail around to the area below the dam N of the lake.  From there, Lupe took a very short stretch of the Sunday Gulch trail.  By 4:40 PM, Lupe was back at the Honda Fit.

Everyone agreed that the loop to Little Devil’s Tower on the return trip had been a really nice scenic addition to the hike up Harney Peak.  It really hadn’t added that much distance or difficulty to the day, although it did add some time spent up on Little Devil’s Tower.  Lupe’s Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 97 had been a success!

The Sunday Gulch trail on the way to the Honda Fit from Sylvan Lake.
The Sunday Gulch trail on the way to the Honda Fit from Sylvan Lake.

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Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 98 – The Northern Hills Day of Deterioration (10-2-14)

About 5 miles SW of Lead in the northern Black Hills, SPHP found a spot to park the G6 (9:59 AM, 45°F).  Lupe started Expedition No. 98 along the E side of USFS Road No. 194 a short distance N of Hwy 85.  The skies were blue, the air was calm, and the cool morning air felt good.  The forecast called for a high in the low 60’s °F (although at lower elevations) with an outside chance (20%) of rain.

Deer Mountain (6,652 ft.), site of a local downhill ski resort, was only 0.5 mile away.  Lupe and SPHP followed No. 194 N gaining elevation, but soon left the road to turn NE and head up through the forest toward the summit.  The climb was moderately steep, but not terribly long.  The day had hardly started when Lupe and SPHP arrived on top of Deer Mountain.

Lupe arrives at the chair lift on top of Deer Mountain.
Lupe arrives at the chair lift on top of Deer Mountain.
There was quite a view to the NE toward the town of Lead, SD from the top of Deer Mountain. The view might be particularly impressive when conditions are all white and right for skiing. Since Carolina Dogs hardly ever go skiing, Lupe was happier with this beautiful, sunny morning. The only thing disappointing about Deer Mountain to Lupe was that there weren't any deer. However, she did see a jackrabbit. Lupe now thinks of Deer Mountain as Jackrabbit Mountain.
There was quite a view to the NE toward the town of Lead, SD from the top of Deer Mountain. The view might be particularly impressive when conditions are all white and right for skiing. Since Carolina Dogs hardly ever go skiing, Lupe was happier with this beautiful, sunny morning. The only thing disappointing about Deer Mountain to Lupe was that there weren’t any deer. However, she did see a jackrabbit. Lupe now thinks of Deer Mountain as Jackrabbit Mountain.
Although Deer Mountain at 6,652 ft. is a pretty high peak for the Black Hills, Terry Peak 2 miles to the N is even higher at 7,064 ft. Photo looks N.
Although Deer Mountain at 6,652 ft. is a pretty high peak for the Black Hills, Terry Peak 2 miles to the N is even higher at 7,064 ft. Photo looks N.

Lupe and SPHP left Deer Mountain heading N back down to USFS Road No. 194.  Terry Peak (7,064 ft.), site of another downhill ski resort just 2 miles N of Deer Mountain, was Lupe’s next peakbagging goal.

Lupe on the N slopes of Deer Mountain with Terry Peak in the background. Photo looks N.
Lupe on the N slopes of Deer Mountain with Terry Peak in the background. Photo looks N.
Terry Peak using the telephoto lens.
Terry Peak using the telephoto lens.

Lupe and SPHP followed No. 194 almost all the way up to the top of Terry Peak.  It would have been possible to drive up, although the road did deteriorate some toward the end.

Looking SSE from USFS Road No. 194 a little below the summit of Terry Peak. Custer Peak (6,804 ft.) is the pointy peak on the L. Harney Peak (7,242 ft.) is on the far horizon near the center. Deer Mountain is the rounded hill in the foreground on the R.
Looking SSE from USFS Road No. 194 a little below the summit of Terry Peak. Custer Peak (6,804 ft.) is the pointy peak on the L. Harney Peak (7,242 ft.) is on the far horizon near the center. Deer Mountain is the rounded hill in the foreground on the R.

The top of Terry Peak is cluttered with assorted towers, metal buildings, and power lines.  The ski facilities are a bit lower down toward the NE.  An apparently abandoned lookout tower sits at the very summit.  A huge observation deck with 2 different stairways up to it crowned the entire building.

The lookout tower’s appearance was suffering from a lack of maintenance, but there wasn’t anything wrong with the views from the platform on top!

Lupe up on top of the Terry Peak lookout tower. Photo looks S.
Lupe up on top of the Terry Peak lookout tower. Photo looks S.
Low gray clouds were starting to pass over the Terry Peak lookout tower while Lupe was up on the observation deck. It became quite windy and cool as each cloud sailed by overhead. This photo looks WNW. The long distant ridge on the R is part of the Black Hills in Wyoming known as the Bear Lodge Mountains.
Low gray clouds were starting to pass over the Terry Peak lookout tower while Lupe was up on the observation deck. It became quite windy and cool as each cloud sailed by overhead. This photo looks WNW. The long distant ridge on the R is part of the Black Hills in Wyoming known as the Bear Lodge Mountains.
Looking N at the Terry Peak lookout tower after Lupe came down off the viewing platform. Some of the clouds were starting to look pretty dark.
Looking N at the Terry Peak lookout tower after Lupe came down off the viewing platform. Some of the clouds were starting to look pretty dark.

Lupe and SPHP enjoyed 360° views from the huge observation deck.  Lupe and SPHP lingered up there for a while, but the weather started to deteriorate.  The skies had been mostly clear earlier in the morning, but now puffy white clouds were sailing by.  Some of them were pretty big.  Each cloud brought a cold wind with it.  The sky started to darken.  The clouds kept getting bigger and grayer.

Lupe wanted to get down out of the wind.  SPHP finally agreed.  Lupe and SPHP left the observation deck, and wandered over to the base of a tall tower to the N for a look at a couple of Lupe’s next peakbagging goals without towers in the way.

Foley Mountain hardly even looks like a hill looking down from Terry Peak. The top of Foley Mountain was in the trees beyond and to the R of the white building near the center of this photo. Photo looks NNW.
Foley Mountain hardly even looks like a hill looking down from Terry Peak. The top of Foley Mountain was in the trees beyond and to the R of the white building near the center of this photo. Photo looks NNW.
Bald Mountain at least looked like a hill from Terry Peak. It is the rounded hill with all the dead trees on it just R of center in the foreground. The hill beyond it is Mount Theodore Roosevelt (5,680 ft.). Photo looks NE.
Bald Mountain at least looked like a hill from Terry Peak. It is the rounded hill with all the dead trees on it just R of center in the foreground. The hill beyond it is Mount Theodore Roosevelt (5,680 ft.). Photo looks NE.

SPHP had originally planned for Lupe to head down the N slope of Terry Peak to Foley Mountain (6,640 ft.), but there appeared to be a lot of private property in the area.  The weather continued to deteriorate, too.  Maybe it was best not to get too far from the G6.

Lupe and SPHP returned to USFS Road No. 194, and followed it all the way back to the G6 (1:24 PM, 54°F).  Along the way, Lupe was pelted a number of time with crusty, round snow granules.  None of these snow showers lasted very long, and there was no accumulation.  The snow granules all melted as they hit the ground.

SPHP had been gathering Lupe Treasures along No. 194.  After depositing them in the trunk of the G6 for future recycling, Lupe and SPHP got in and headed NW on Hwy 85 to Nevada Gulch Road.  SPHP drove all the way up to the Barefoot Resort, which had been visible from Terry Peak.

The Barefoot Resort seemed to be quite close to the top of Foley Mountain.  SPHP found an empty parking lot behind a long, low building and parked the G6 (1:41 PM, 45°F).  Almost as soon as Lupe and SPHP left the car, someone started shooting guns close by.  Lupe bolted back into the safety of the G6.  Fortunately, the gunfire didn’t last long.  After a few minutes of silence, SPHP managed to persuade the doubtful Dingo to come back out.

The long building seemed to be abandoned.  Although there was a nice big gravel parking lot behind it, when Lupe and SPHP went around to the front to get a look at Terry Peak, the yard was nothing but thistles and tall weeds.  There was a pretty good close-up view of Terry Peak from the NNW, though.

Terry Peak from the NNW.
Terry Peak from the NNW.

Lupe and SPHP went back behind the building.  A gravel road headed uphill going N out of the parking lot into the forest.  After about 100 yards, the road ended near more buildings.  There was still slightly higher ground to the N, so Lupe left the road and went on through the forest.

After about 5 minutes, Lupe reached a fairly big rock outcropping.  This appeared to be the summit of Foley Mountain.  Lupe and SPHP scrambled up easily enough.  From up on top, it was clear that this rock formation was, indeed, the summit.  A 3″ diameter capped pipe stuck up out of the ground at the very highest point.  Lupe got up next to it to claim her 3rd peakbagging success of the day.

Lupe at the summit of Foley Mountain. The summit area was all forested, so there weren't any views.
Lupe at the summit of Foley Mountain. The summit area was all forested, so there weren’t any views.

Since the top of Foley Mountain was all forested, there weren’t any clear views.  There was little reason for Lupe and SPHP to linger.  After peering between the trees as much as possible, it was time to go.  Lupe scrambled back down off the rock formation.  Within 10 minutes, she was back at the G6 (2:16 PM, 44°F).

Lupe on her way down the rock formation at the top of Foley Mountain. Photo looks NE.
Lupe on her way down the rock formation at the top of Foley Mountain. Photo looks NE.

By now the sky was overcast.  A chill breeze blew.  Lupe still had a 4th peakbagging goal, Bald Mountain (6,617 ft.).  Bald Mountain was only a mile to the E, but Wharf Resources had gold mining operations between Bald Mountain and Foley Mountain.  SPHP would have to drive to a better access point.  Along the way, Lupe and SPHP stopped at a pullout along Nevada Gulch Road with a good view of Bald Mountain.

Bald Mountain from a pullout near Foley Mountain along Nevada Gulch Road. Photo looks E.
Bald Mountain from a pullout near Foley Mountain along Nevada Gulch Road. Photo looks E.

SPHP had to drive quite a distance down Nevada Gulch Road to find a decent place to park the G6.  Lupe and SPHP started back up Nevada Gulch Road on paw and foot.  It wasn’t too far to a side road with a sign for Lost Miner’s Lodge.  After a short trek along this side road, Lupe turned N climbing up the forested S slope of Bald Mountain.  Lupe crossed a couple more roads along the way, but they appeared to be seldom, if ever, used.

The drive down Nevada Gulch Road had lost a lot of elevation.  Lupe had to gain over 850 feet to reach the summit of Bald Mountain.  As Lupe neared the top of the mountain, the terrain started to level out.  Meanwhile, snow showers started in again.  This time they were heavier and lasted longer than the ones after Lupe left Terry Peak.  There still wasn’t any accumulation, however.

Finally, Lupe reached the top of Bald Mountain.  It really hadn’t been a bad climb.  Although traffic could be heard from down on Nevada Gulch Road, Bald Mountain still seemed much wilder than anywhere else Lupe had been this day.  Quite a few trees on the summit had fallen over, killed by mountain pine bark beetles.  Consequently, it was possible to get a bit of a view in some directions.

Lupe on top of Bald Mountain. She collected a lot of burrs in her tail on the way up! Photo looks NE.
Lupe on top of Bald Mountain. She collected a lot of burrs in her tail on the way up! Photo looks NE.
Lupe seems to have thought of something absolutely hilarious, but she didn't let SPHP in on the joke.
Lupe seems to have thought of something absolutely hilarious, but she didn’t let SPHP in on the joke.
The top of Bald Mountain also featured a 3" diameter pipe. This pipe was taller than the one on Foley Mountain, painted white, and uncapped. Photo looks SW toward Terry Peak.
The top of Bald Mountain also featured a 3″ diameter pipe. This pipe was taller than the one on Foley Mountain, painted white, and uncapped. Photo looks SW toward Terry Peak.

The summit area on Bald Mountain was large and flat.  It was hard to tell where the exact highest point might be.  Lupe found a pipe sticking up out of the ground.  Just like on Foley Mountain, the pipe seemed to be at about the highest point around.

The views from Bald Mountain weren’t the greatest.  Too many trees were still standing.  Pretty soon, it was time to leave.  Lupe and SPHP started back down the S slope again.

Lupe shortly after starting back down the S slope of Bald Mountain. Photo looks S.
Lupe shortly after starting back down the S slope of Bald Mountain. Photo looks S.

The snow showers held off while Lupe was up on top of Bald Mountain, but shortly after she started back down, the snow started in again.  This time the snow showers persisted much longer.  The ground started to turn white.

As Lupe lost elevation, though, the snow turned to rain.  Lupe was cold and soaking wet by the time she got back to the G6 (4:33 PM, 39°F).  SPHP turned on the heater full blast, and put a jacket over Lupe to help her warm up.

The burrs in Lupe’s tail must have been bugging her.  As SPHP drove to Lead, Lupe started tearing burrs out of her fur with her teeth.  SPHP found a place to park in Lead, and commenced to help Lupe get rid of the pesky burrs.  Lupe had a few hundred burrs in her fur, so it took quite a while.  By the time de-burring operations were over, the windows of the G6 were all fogged up.  De-fogging operations began.

It was still raining.  Lupe and SPHP stopped by a Subway in Lead.  After sharing a sandwich, despite the conditions, Lupe and SPHP made a quick trip up one more mountain.  It was cold, windy and snowing hard when Lupe left the G6 at 5:45 PM (32°F).  The mountaintop wasn’t far away, but by the time Lupe reached it, blizzard conditions had set in.

Snow was piling up fast.  The wind absolutely howled.  Fog and developing darkness made it hard to see, especially while being pelted by the driven snow.  Lupe flattened her soft ears and posed for one last peakbagging photo.  Lupe and SPHP were both freezing.  A mad dash back to the G6 ensued (6:16 PM, 32°F).

Well, Loopster, that was quite a day!  Five peaks climbed!  Think we will call this one the Northern Hills Day of Deterioration!

A cold, sodden Carolina Dog stared back at SPHP.  Think I’ll just call you nuts!Lupe on Green Mountain, 10-214Want more Lupe adventures?  Choose from Lupe’s Black Hills Expeditions Adventure Index or Master Adventure Index.  Or subscribe free to new Lupe adventures.

Fremont Lake & Photographer’s Point, Wind River Range WY (8-29-12)

August 28-30, 2012, Days 21-23 of Lupe’s 2012 Dingo Vacation to the West Coast.

As soon as Lanis woke up; Lupe, Lanis and SPHP would hit the road again.  In the meantime, Lupe and SPHP took a little stroll.  For SPHP, it had been a restless night trying to sleep sitting up in the Element.  This car camping business was starting to get pretty old.  Lupe, of course, was always fresh as a daisy, since she could stretch out and relax on her mountain of pillows and blankets in the back of the Element.

Last night’s car camping was SPHP’s own fault for being so stubborn.  Lupe’s tiny house could have been set up back at the Farewell Bend State Recreation Area in Oregon.  Instead, SPHP got persnickety about bureaucracy and regulations, and had Lanis keep driving.  Lupe had made it as far as Boise, Idaho before stopping for the night.

Oh, well.  It didn’t matter now, the night was over.  On the bright side, SPHP had saved $18-22.  When Lupe and SPHP got back to the Element, a bleary-eyed Lanis was at least conscious.  He was soon pressed back into chauffer service driving SE on I-84.  Lupe, Lanis and SPHP left I-84 at Mountain Home taking Hwy 20.  Hwy 20 started out winding NE into the S end of a very dry looking mountain range.

The sky had been a little smoky in Boise, but along Hwy 20 the smoke was much thicker.  The smoke got denser and denser until it was like being in a fog.  Lanis started expecting to see the actual flames of a forest fire around any bend, but it didn’t happen.  Way back in the early days of Lupe’s 2012 Dingo Vacation, back at the Beartooth Mountains in Wyoming, the sky had been smoky then, too, but never this bad.  Apparently the fires in Idaho had been burning all this time.

Southern ID was hot, dry, barren and smoky. The skies weren't nearly so smoky, though, as Lupe started getting close to Craters of the Moon National Monument.
Southern ID was hot, dry, barren and smoky. The skies weren’t nearly so smoky, though, as Lupe started getting close to Craters of the Moon National Monument.

The skies were much clearer by the time Lupe reached Craters of the Moon National Monument.  Lupe, Lanis and SPHP stopped briefly near the visitor center.  Lanis went inside, and soon returned with the unsurprising news that Dingoes aren’t allowed on any of the trails.  Well, that was that!  Lupe made a few more stops at pullouts along Hwy 20 for photos, but she really didn’t get to do anything at Craters of the Moon.

Lava flow at Craters of the Moon National Monument.
Lava flow at Craters of the Moon National Monument.

Craters of the Moon NM, ID 8-28-12Craters of the Moon NP, ID 8-28-12Lupe continued on.  Idaho remained hot and parched until Lupe reached Idaho Falls.  E of Idaho Falls on Hwy 26, the scenery improved steadily.  It was much greener here near the high mountains.  By early evening, Lupe reached the fabulous Wind River Range near Pinedale, Wyoming.  Lupe, Lanis and SPHP took Skyline Drive up to Elkhart Park for a look around.

From viewpoints along Skyline Drive, Lupe saw two big lakes, Half Moon Lake and Freemont Lake, formed by the retreat of large glaciers ages ago.  Near Elkhart Park was a pullout along the road with a sweeping view of the central portion of the mighty Wind River Range.  SPHP recognized Fremont Peak (13,745 ft.), one of many visible along the Continental Divide.

Half Moon Lake from Skyline Drive near Pinedale, WY 8-28-12
Half Moon Lake from Skyline Drive near Pinedale, WY 8-28-12
Half Moon Lake
Half Moon Lake
Fremont Lake near Pinedale, WY from Skyline Drive. Photo looks S. At 8 or 9 miles long, Freemont Lake is the largest of a series of a series of big lakes along the S side of the Wind River Range left behind by the retreat of large glaciers.
Fremont Lake near Pinedale, WY from Skyline Drive. Photo looks S. At 8 or 9 miles long, Freemont Lake is the largest of a series of a series of big lakes along the S side of the Wind River Range left behind by the retreat of large glaciers.
Lanis near Skyline Drive above Fremont Lake. Although the S end of the lake extends well out of the mountains, the N end of the lake is nestled in among them. This photo looks NNW.
Lanis near Skyline Drive above Fremont Lake. Although the S end of the lake extends well out of the mountains, the N end of the lake is nestled in among them. This photo looks NNW.
Looking W across Fremont Lake.
Looking W across Fremont Lake.
Looking N at the Wind River Range in Wyoming from a viewpoint along Skyline Drive near Elkhart Park.
Looking N at the Wind River Range in Wyoming from a viewpoint along Skyline Drive near Elkhart Park.
Freemont Peak along the Continental Divide from a viewpoint along Skyline Drive near Elkhart Park. Photo looks NE.
Freemont Peak along the Continental Divide from a viewpoint along Skyline Drive near Elkhart Park. Photo looks NE.

After going up to Elkhart Park and back down again, Lanis and SPHP pitched Lupe’s tiny house at the Fremont Lake campground.  The campsite was some distance away from the lake.  Lanis and SPHP feasted on sandwiches after a quick run in to Subway in Pinedale.  Both Lanis and SPHP were feeling pretty tired, and looking forward to a night stretched out in Lupe’s tiny house.

Lupe wasn’t tired, though.  She’d spent most of the last two days and nights cooped up in the Element.  Lupe was bursting with energy!  She was very happy to be out sniffing every tree and bush around.  She was finally getting to do Dingo stuff again!  With great enthusiasm, she raised a ruckus over each and every squirrel.  Slowly the sun went down.  Twilight faded.  The squirrels went to bed.  It still took a lot of persuading from SPHP to get Lupe into the tiny house and settled down for the night.

SPHP woke up.  It was still early.  Like dark out with the stars still shining early.  SPHP had no idea what time it was, but felt better.  Lupe was instantly awake, too.  Lupe and SPHP stole out of her tiny house and into the night.  Fifteen minutes later, Lupe and SPHP reached the dock down by the boat ramp.  Fremont Lake sits at around 7,400 feet elevation.  Overhead, the Milky Way was blazing in a cloudless night sky.  The brightest stars reflected clearly in the still lake.

To the E, SPHP saw Sagittarius, Venus and just a hint of light.  Dawn was coming.  The night sky was gorgeous, but it was probably best to get a little more sleep.  Lupe and SPHP returned to rejoin Lanis in Lupe’s tiny house.  Well, at least SPHP did.  Lupe had other ideas.  She wouldn’t go in the tent.  SPHP tried to rest while listening for the tinkling sound of Lupe’s tag as she sniffed around outside.

It worked for a little while.  Lupe was sniffing around out there pretty close to the tiny house.  As it grew lighter though, the squirrels started waking up.  Sniffing became growling.  Pretty soon the growling was barking.  Just occasionally at first, but the barking sprees lengthened.  SPHP had to get up, or Lupe would succeed in getting evicted from the campground.

Lanis was pretty played out.  After successive long days driving, he was just plain zonked.  It was light out now.  The sun came up and rose high in the sky.  Lanis snoozed on.  Lupe and SPHP made a couple more trips down to Fremont Lake.  There was a little beach near the dock and boat ramp.  Lupe went wading.  SPHP watched minnows swimming near the shore.

Fremont Lake, Wind River Range, WY
Fremont Lake, Wind River Range, WY
Lupe wades in Fremont Lake.
Lupe wades in Fremont Lake.

It was almost lunch time when Lanis finally regained consciousness.  Lupe, Lanis and SPHP drove down to the Lakeside Lodge, Resort & Marina at the very S end of Fremont Lake.  The resort features a restaurant with both inside and outside dining available.  Next to Fremont Lake, there was a large deck with tables shaded by big umbrellas.  Beyond the lake was a gorgeous panoramic view of high peaks of the Wind River Range.

It was sort of busy.  The clientele looked upscale.  Lanis and SPHP were in rather disreputable condition.  There was an open table, though, at the far edge of the deck separated a little bit from the rest of the guests.  The wait staff was willing to serve mangy Lanis and SPHP.  Lupe was even allowed to rest on the deck at SPHP’s feet.  On Lupe’s entire 2012 Dingo Vacation, this was the only time Lupe, Lanis and SPHP actually got to eat at a restaurant.  It was wonderful!

Lanis and SPHP both ordered big burgers.  They were great!  SPHP stealthily slipped some burger down to Lupe.  Everyone was happy.  The scenery was magnificent.  It was a relaxing, beautiful time.

After the glorious lunch by Fremont Lake; Lupe, Lanis and SPHP went into Pinedale for a little while.  SPHP hoped to find a good map of the mountains to look at.  There was a USFS map posted outside a forest service office near the grocery store.  SPHP studied it for a few minutes while Lanis was in the grocery store.  Lupe was on a leash right there with SPHP.

Lupe and SPHP were both about ready to leave, when an overly helpful ranger came along.   The ranger almost insisted that SPHP come inside for more information, and a cheerful lecture on a blizzard of federal rules certain to enhance any wilderness experience.

Rule No. 1, of course, was that Dingoes couldn’t come in the building.  Why just the other day, some Grand Poo-Bah supervisor from the District of Bureaucracy had sent out an email on the importance of never allowing a Dingo to set paw in any forest service building.

Lanis was waiting at the Element by the time Lupe and SPHP extracted themselves from all the helpful assistance.  At least SPHP had seen enough of the map to have a pretty good idea where to go.  Since the day was off to a rather late start, the best day hike without a map to bring along with was probably to take the well-traveled Pole Creek trail up at Elkhart Park.

Lupe, Lanis and SPHP went back up to Elkhart Park.  The trailhead was already at 9,350 feet elevation, so Lupe was going to get to see some pretty high country.  The Pole Creek trail started off heading SE as it went up the Pole Creek drainage.  The trail was wide and well-worn.  It gained elevation steadily, but at a moderate pace.

The area was almost all forested.  There were squirrels in the trees.  Lupe got to run, and run, and run.  She had a fantastic time.  The trail eventually turned NE, and then gained elevation more slowly.  Lupe began to encounter clearings in the forest and little ponds.  Lupe, Lanis and SPHP made it as far as Photographer’s Point (10,400 ft.).  There was a huge panoramic view to the N.

Lupe reaches Photographer's Point in the Wind River Range with muddy paws from wading in a pond.
Lupe reaches Photographer’s Point in the Wind River Range with muddy paws from wading in a pond.
Looking NW at the Wind River Range from Photographer's Point. Wow, there's a lot of rock out there!
Looking NW at the Wind River Range from Photographer’s Point. Wow, there’s a lot of rock out there!
Looking NE from Photographer's Point. Fremont Peak is on the R. The lake partially in view is probably Gorge Lake.
Looking NE from Photographer’s Point. Fremont Peak is on the R. The lake partially in view is probably Gorge Lake.

The inspiring view from Photographer’s Point just made SPHP want to go farther. There were lakes nearby that SPHP had seen earlier on the map posted outside the forest service office in Pinedale.  Lupe is always game to do more, but Lanis was ready to call it a day.  However, even though Lanis really did need to get back to Indiana very soon, he did agree to spend another day in the Wind Rivers.

So Lupe didn’t go any farther into the Wind River range than Photographer’s Point.  With an earlier start the next day, she could, though!  After spending some time admiring the sweeping views; Lupe, Lanis and SPHP returned along the Pole Creek trail.

The sun was getting low in a cloudless sky, by the time Lupe reached the Element again back at Elkhart Park .  A little while later, Lanis and SPHP crawled into sleeping bags in Lupe’s tiny house near Fremont Lake.  Lupe curled up for a snooze, too.  Tomorrow was going to be an even bigger day spent in the spectacular Wind River range!

After midnight, there was a sound that Lupe, Lanis and SPHP had rarely heard on Lupe’s 2012 Dingo Vacation.  Raindrops on Lupe’s tiny house!  Not too many, but some.  SPHP took a look outside.  No stars in any direction.  The whole black sky must have been overcast.  Not good.  The tent was old, and had always leaked.  The raindrops came in little spurts.  No big deal, if it stayed like this.  Lupe, Lanis and SPHP tried to ignore it and go back to sleep.

For at least a couple of hours, the rain was sporadic and light.  Gradually the intensity was increasing, though.  Water started dripping inside Lupe’s tiny house.  SPHP remained hopeful that the rain would hold off until dawn, when it would be possible to get a good look at the sky and assess the outlook.  More rain came, harder too.  As the tent started leaking more, Lanis and SPHP sat up talking about what to do.  Stick it out and wait for dawn, or pack things up before everything got soaked?

Nature decided.  Suddenly there was a volley of intense rain, with big drops.  Lupe got hustled into the Element.  Lanis and SPHP scrambled to take down her tiny house for the last time.  Everything got pitched into the Element.  Very suddenly, Lupe’s grand 2012 Dingo Vacation to the West Coast was over.

The rain became light and steady as Lupe left Pinedale and the Wind River range behind her.  On the way to Farson, the first light of dawn appeared and began spreading along the E horizon.  Before reaching Farson, Lanis drove out of the rain.  Back to the NW, clouds still hung over the Wind River range.  The rain showers were likely just local.  Lupe could probably have gone back, and spent another day exploring the Winds.

The decision had already been made, though.  On the 23rd day of her first ever Dingo Vacation, after more than 5,000 miles, 5 states, and 3 weeks of adventures, Lupe was going home.

Dawn in Wyoming, 8-30-12
Dawn in Wyoming, 8-30-12

Want more Lupe adventures?  Choose from Lupe’s 2012 West Coast Adventure IndexDingo Vacations Adventure Index or Master Adventure Index.  Or subscribe free to new Lupe adventures.

Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 99 – Peak 6820 & Crook’s Tower (10-8-14)

11:00 AM (60°F).  Rather a late start for Lupe’s expedition, but she would still have fun.  She was about to spend the rest of this glorious early fall day roaming the high country of the western Black Hills.  The sky was a clear blue with a few wispy clouds.  The air was calm, stirred only by an occasional light breeze.  The American Dingo was raring to go!

The G6 was parked just S of the W end of Besant Park at the junction of USFS Road No. 206 (Besant Park Road) and No. 206.2D.  As soon as SPHP let Lupe out of the G6, she streaked off across No.  206 racing N into a huge field that was part of Besant Park.  Oh, no!  She had T-bone steak on her mind!  Two black cows fled at the sudden noisy appearance of the bold Carolina Dog.  SPHP hadn’t noticed them, but Lupe sure had.

Lupe barked a couple of times just for good measure as she gave up the chase.  From far away, a brown and white streak came racing back across the field to SPHP.  The cows, also now very far away, mooed unhappily at having been disturbed.  A couple minutes later, Lupe arrived back at SPHP out of breath and panting hard.  She had a huge grin on her face.  Yes, this was already a glorious day!

It was time to move on before Lupe really got into trouble.  While she had been running around in Besant Park, SPHP saw something Lupe hadn’t noticed.  Quite close by, off in a much smaller unfenced field to the SW, a huge black bull was grazing.  SPHP hurried Lupe S on No. 206.2D.  Let’s go find Peak 6820 and leave the cows alone!

Peak 6820 was Lupe’s primary peakbagging goal for the day.  SPHP wasn’t entirely certain Lupe hadn’t been there once before.  Back on Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 58 on 5-11-13, Lupe had climbed a high ridge somewhere not too far to the E.  Maybe it was possible that ridge was part of Peak 6820?  It would be fun to find out.

Lupe didn’t stay on No. 206.2D very long.  After she had gone several hundred yards, SPHP noticed a trail heading E.  Peak 6820 was only about a mile to the E, so Lupe and SPHP followed the trail.  It climbed through the forest and arrived up on a high ridge.  SPHP recognized the ridge as the same one Lupe had been to on Expedition No. 58.  It wasn’t part of Peak 6820, though.  About 0.75 mile away, SPHP could see a modestly higher forested hill to the E.  That hill had to be Peak 6820!

Even though it wasn’t going to take Lupe any closer to Peak 6820, Lupe and SPHP explored the ridge Lupe was on around to the NNE.  At first the ridge was fairly broad, open and grassy.  The N end, though, was all in the forest.  SPHP had been hoping for a view of Besant Park to the N, but any view was hidden by the trees.  Lupe and SPHP returned S to where Lupe had come up.

Lupe could have gone down into the valley heading straight toward Peak 6820. However, it looked like she might not have to lose so much elevation, if she followed the ridge she was already on to the S.  It looked like this ridge would eventually swing around to the E toward Peak 6820.

Lupe and SPHP headed S following the ridgeline.  The ridge stayed about the same elevation, but gradually grew narrower.  Lupe came to several rock outcroppings, but the rock formations ended as Lupe approached a shallow saddle.  The saddle led over to the next ridge to the S.  Down in the saddle, Lupe found a dirt road, possibly another part of No. 206.2D.  She followed the road only a short distance before leaving it to angle SE up onto the next ridge.

The next ridge did go E.  As Lupe followed this second ridge, she could sometimes see White Tail Peak (6,962 ft.) to the S.  The second ridge started out as a broad, level mix of forest and meadows, but became narrower and rockier as Lupe went E.  The level part of the ridge ended at a small limestone cliff.  Lupe and SPHP had to double back to the W, and then turn SE to get past the cliff.

Lupe came to another saddle.  Everything to the NE was down in a thickly forested valley in the direction of Peak 6820.  To the SW, the land sloped down more gently into a sunnier, thinly forested area.  Ahead, another ridge rose to the SE.  Lupe and SPHP went up to the high point.  Lupe could see Peak 6820, but she wasn’t much closer to it.  Peak 6820 was still 0.5 mile away, but now to the NNE.

By now, it was clear that Lupe was going to have to lose some elevation to get to Peak 6820.  Lupe and SPHP went NW back down to the saddle, turned NE and plunged down into the forest.  There was quite a bit of deadfall timber, which slowed SPHP down considerably.  It wasn’t too far to the bottom of the valley, however, and once down there, Lupe came to a faint road.

Lupe followed the road NNW, slowly regaining elevation.  She soon arrived at an odd place.  Hidden down here in a small glade, was a huge metal water tank.  Nearby stood a an old tower with a rickety ladder leading up to a small warped platform at the top.

Lupe reaches the hidden water tank and tower down in the forest SW of Peak 6820. Photo looks N.
Lupe reaches the hidden water tank and tower down in the forest SW of Peak 6820. Photo looks N.

The water tank was nearly full to the top with a rusty brown water so murky SPHP could see only an inch or two into it.  Perhaps the tower had featured a windmill at some point in time?  A horizontal pipe stuck out over the water tank from near the base of the tower.

This photo shows the horizontal pipe hanging out over the water tank, and the sagging platform at the top of the tower. Photo looks NE.
This photo shows the horizontal pipe hanging out over the water tank, and the sagging platform at the top of the tower. Photo looks NE.

Not too far to the NNE, Lupe came to another odd place.  A square area about 25 feet long on each side was fenced off by a barbed wire fence.  Inside the fence was a wooden framed structure only 6 inches high.  The wooden framework was completely covered with sheets of metal nailed to it.

Lupe sniffs around near the possible mine shaft cover SW of Peak 6820.
Lupe sniffs around near the possible mine shaft cover SW of Peak 6820.

SPHP didn’t like the looks of it.  The only reason SPHP could think of for such an odd structure was that it served as a cover for a large, deep mine shaft.  If so, it was there to protect people or animals from a potentially fatal fall.  The cover looked like it had been here for years.  Who knew how structurally sound it still was, or how deep the hole hidden beneath it?

One thing about SPHP’s theory didn’t make sense.  There didn’t seem to be a tailings pile anywhere around.  There should have been a pretty big one nearby, if this was really the site of an old mine shaft.  Very strange!  Whatever the explanation, SPHP didn’t think anything good could come from lingering around here.  Lupe continued NNE toward Peak 6820.  She soon found another old road, or maybe it was the same one that had led to the water tank and tower.

The old road went NNE up the side of Peak 6820.  Parts of the road were clear, but much of it was choked with deadfall timber.  Lupe and SPHP spent more time off the road than on it trying to get past all the deadfall.  Shortly before reaching the top, the road veered E.  It emerged up from the forest at a fairly large clearing on Peak 6820.

The first thing Lupe noticed was a mud puddle large enough to bathe in.  She ran over to it, plunked herself down to cool off, and lapped up lots of very murky-looking water.  She emerged refreshed and well supplied with both essential and non-essential minerals, evidently quite satisfied with the experience.

The summit area on Peak 6820 is large and flat.  Much of it is open meadow, but the meadow is entirely fringed by forest.  There was hardly even a glimpse of a view in any direction.  Lupe and SPHP set off to explore the area.  The highest ground seemed to be a little way E of where Lupe had come up.

Lupe on Peak 6820. This point toward the S central part of the summit area seemed to be as much the true summit as anywhere else.
Lupe on Peak 6820. This point toward the S central part of the summit area seemed to be as much the true summit as anywhere else.

After exploring to the S and E, Lupe and SPHP returned to the mud puddle on the way to explore the N and W parts of the mountaintop.  Naturally, Lupe couldn’t resist taking another dip.

Double-dipper Lupe emerges from her Dingo-sized mud hole on Peak 6820 for a 2nd time.
Double-dipper Lupe emerges from her Dingo-sized mud hole on Peak 6820 for a 2nd time.

Explorations to the N and W revealed only that the jeep trail Lupe had followed up the mountain continued over the top and on down the other side to the NNE.  There were some cliffs lower down toward the NW, but they weren’t terribly tall and were buried so deeply in the trees that even the cliffs didn’t provide any views.

With the summit area now fully explored, Lupe and SPHP left Peak 6820 heading WNW.  This time Lupe went down into the valley between Peak 6820 and the ridge to the W.  The terrain forced SPHP to the WSW for a little while, but eventually Lupe and SPHP were able to turn WNW again.  There was no trail and a considerable amount of deadfall timber to contend with, but this was a more direct route back to the G6.

The climb back up onto the ridge to the W was rather slow due to the deadfall, but once there, Lupe and SPHP made rapid progress again.  Lupe followed the ridge N to the trail she had been on early in the day.  She followed the trail W back to No. 206.2D, and then N to the G6 (2:46 PM, 66°F).

Approaching the G6, SPHP saw that there was now a big herd of black cows across USFS Road No. 206 in Besant Park.  This time, Lupe didn’t get to run after them.

Lupe would have loved to have more fun with these cows in Besant Park, but party pooper SPHP wouldn't permit it.
Lupe would have loved to have more fun with these cows in Besant Park, but party pooper SPHP wouldn’t permit it.

There was still plenty of time left in the day for Lupe to do some more exploring.  Crooks Tower (7,137 ft.) was only 3 miles away to the WSW as the crow flies.  Lupe had been there before, but it would still be fun to see it again.  It was still quite a long winding way to Crooks Tower from here, though.  To save some time, Lupe and SPHP hopped in the G6 and drove around to a closer point.

SPHP parked the G6 again at 3:09 PM (61°F).  Lupe was now only 0.33 mile W of Crooks Tower at the intersection of USFS Roads No. 189 and No. 189.4A.  Lupe and SPHP headed E on No. 189.4A.  Before long, Lupe had completed her 5th ascent of Crooks Tower!

Lupe relaxes on Crooks Tower. This was her 5th ascent.
Lupe relaxes on Crooks Tower. This was her 5th ascent.

The summit of Crooks Tower is a relatively small (large room-sized), level limestone platform.  Although Crooks Tower is one of the very highest mountains in the Black Hills, there are plenty of ridges almost as high in the area.  The ridges and forest block the views in most directions, but Harney Peak (7,242 ft.) can be seen far to the SE.  There is a less dramatic distant view off to the N, too.

SPHP had never realized it before, but by standing at just the right spot and peering between tree branches, it was possible to get a look at Inyan Kara (6,360 ft.) off to the WNW in Wyoming.

Harney Peak (L) can be seen on the far horizon from Crooks Tower. Photo looks SE.
Harney Peak (L) can be seen on the far horizon from Crooks Tower. Photo looks SE.
Looking N from Crooks Tower.
Looking N from Crooks Tower.

After enjoying the views from Crooks Tower, Lupe and SPHP returned to the G6.  There were still at least a couple of hours of daylight left.  SPHP pondered what Lupe should do next?  The top alternatives were a visit to Clayton Pond, or exploring USFS Road No. 189.4B.  Since Lupe was practically at No. 189.4B already, it won out.

Lupe and SPHP left the G6 where it was, and went right on by to USFS Road No. 189.4B.  The only marker at the start of the road wasn’t entirely legible, but seemed to indicate this was No. 189.4C or 189.6C, but that didn’t agree with SPHP’s USFS map.

No. 189.4B led Lupe WNW down a shallow valley.  The ridge to the N was sunny and thinly forested.  The S side of the valley was shady and densely forested.  Tall grass, taller than Lupe, lined both sides of the road.  Lupe virtually disappeared on her little side excursions.  She soon tired of having to leap up to see where she was, and stayed mostly on the road.  The road gradually and steadily lost elevation.

After more than a mile, there was a fence with a gate.  Ten minutes after going through the gate, Lupe reached an intersection.  USFS Road No. 189.4C went S.  No. 117.6B went N.  Off to the NNW, a curve in No. 117 could be seen up ahead across a big open field in a larger, wider valley.  Lupe and SPHP followed No. 117.6B all the way to No. 117.

USFS Road No. 117 as seen from No. 117.6B. This corner of No. 117 was as far as Lupe managed to get on her explorations WNW of Crooks Tower. Photo looks WNW.
USFS Road No. 117 as seen from No. 117.6B. This corner of No. 117 was as far as Lupe managed to get on her explorations WNW of Crooks Tower. Photo looks WNW.

By the time Lupe reached No. 117, she was 2 miles from the G6.  The sun was getting low.  It was time to turn back.  SPHP checked the maps for an alternate route, hoping Lupe could make a loop.  No, she really couldn’t.  Other roads in the area were too long, and it was too late in the day to cut directly through the forest.  Lupe and SPHP returned on No. 189.4B, this time going up the valley, instead of down.

On the way back, SPHP started thinking it might be fun to watch the sunset from Crooks Tower.  Even though forest hid the views to the W at the very summit, there was a ridge almost as high just S of USFS Road No. 189.4C a short distance SSW of the true summit.  Maybe Lupe could see the sunset from there?

Lupe arrived up on the ridge with a little time to spare.  The W end of the ridge ended at a small limestone cliff.  It wasn’t high enough to really get a good view to the W, but the view in that direction was better than it would have been at the true summit of Crooks Tower.  SPHP sat down next to a tree to wait.  A chipmunk darting around on the rocks nearby entertained Lupe.

Lupe watching the chipmunk (not pictured).
Lupe watching the chipmunk (not pictured).

The chipmunk eventually ran off.  Lupe rested on the ground near SPHP.  The edges of her big, soft attentive ears glowed in the last rays of sunlight.Lupe near Crooks Tower, 10-8-14

Waiting for sunset.
Waiting for sunset.

Sunset from SSW high point on Crooks Tower, 10-8-14When the show was over, Lupe and SPHP continued on to the true summit of Crooks Tower.  Lupe made her 2nd ascent of the day, and 6th all time.  The full hunter’s moon was due to come up soon.  Darkness fell and stars began to appear.  Lupe and SPHP waited.  As the pale moon rose, a lone coyote began to howl.  Lupe was entranced.

For several minutes, the lone coyote howled, pausing now and then to listen.  At last, very faintly from far to the W came a few answering howls.  That was good.  The coyote had a friend.  So did SPHP.  It was time to take her home.  (7:06 PM, 41°F)Lupe at sunset SSW of Crooks Tower, 10-8-14Want more Lupe adventures?  Choose from Lupe’s Black Hills Expeditions Adventure Index or Master Adventure Index.  Or subscribe free to new Lupe adventures.